As one of two unique spots in Calistoga, with the other being the Old Faithful Geyser, the Petrified Forest is a great visit if you are in the area. I will be the first to admit that I didn’t fully understand petrified trees before I visited this spot. However, after seeing them, I can appreciate how unique it is to have a trail like this where you walk a little less than a mile and can see a half-dozen beautifully preserved trees. Not to mention, these are supposed to be the largest in the entire world. Here is all the info if you want to check it out yourself.
- Cost: $12
- Hours: Daily from 9 AM – 6 PM
- Location: 4100 Petrified Forest Road, Calistoga Ca 94515
- Information from my visit in 2017 and 2021
History was taken from here:
The petrified trees at this site remained buried for 3.4 million years until, in 1870, an intrepid Swedish homesteader by the name of Charles Evans (“Petrified Charley”), while raking his pasture, discovered the top of an old hollow log that was as hard as stone. His initial curiosity led a number of scientists to visit the property in order to learn more about these natural wonders in California. In 1880, Robert Louis Stevenson recorded his visit to the Petrified Forest in his book “The Silverado Squatters,” while exploring the local environments with his new wife, Fanny Stevenson. Since the time of Charles Evans, this incomparable property has passed through several different owners, but it was not until Ollie Bockee purchased the land in 1914 that the park really started to take shape as we see it today. Ollie came in with the vision of creating a site with the goals of scientific discovery, preservation, and education moving into the future. Her family has now owned, managed, and expanded this property for over one hundred years, passing on their knowledge and passion for the land, and a preservation ethic and educational philosophy that still stands strong today.
After driving up a windy road from Calistoga, I arrived at the small parking lot for the Petrified Forest. When you are traveling up the road, you will see signs for the forest, but the last sign does come out of nowhere, so make sure to be watching for it.
After walking up to the house that had been renovated into a shop, I paid my fee, received a map, and hit the trail.
The map shows you all of the different points of interest along the trail, and it is a great way to see/understand the forest. Right from the beginning of the trail, there is an example of a petrified tree, with a sign talking about how they came to be. While walking along the trail here are a few of my favorite spots.
You can hike out on the meadow trail to see more volcanic ash, or you can just see a small section on this trail.
The Petrfied Pine Tree
There are two types of trees petrified in this forest, pines, and redwoods.
The Giant is 6 ft in diameter and 60 ft in length. It is the first large tree you will see on your hike.
The Queen is even bigger than the giant at 8 feet in diameter and 65 feet long.
The Tunnel Tree
The Tunnel Tree is over 120 feet long and is supposedly one of the best-preserved petrified trees in the world.
Robert Louis Stevenson Tree
This was the first tree that was found in the forest and a piece of it was given to the author it was named after.
Also, there is a .5 mile round trip spur that heads off the trail near the back which I would recommend you take. This short hike over a relatively flat path that takes you back to a small meadow with beautiful views of Mt St Helena, an old active volcano.
If you continue past that for a tenth of a mile, you will also see the area where the ash fell from the eruption. It features a plaque with a lot of information on the area about what makes up an ash falls.
All in all, this is a unique spot that you will have to decide whether your family will enjoy or not. I thought it was exciting, and a unique attraction that we don’t often see. If you get a chance to visit, let me know in the comments.